Thursday, 2 July 2009

BAMMA The Fighting Premiership on Bravo - TV Review

MMA action returned to Bravo’s screens here in Britain this past Sunday night with the debut of a new promotion, the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts (BAMMA). Nicknamed “The Fighting Premiership”, the promotion held semi-final bouts in tournaments to crown lightweight, welterweight and middleweight champions. Hosted by Cage Rage veteran O.J. Borg and radio DJ Christian O’Connell, with two other Cage Rage veterans handling commentary, Malcolm Martin and Rob Nutley, along with O’Connell.
The lightweight semi-finals were first, beginning with Zack Jones taking on Francis Heagney. This one was all Heagney. As soon as the fight went to the ground, Heagney went to work, setting up with punches and elbows before really going to work with the ground and pound. Jones could offer no defence, so it came as no surprise that the referee stepped in. Impressive stuff from the Irishman here as he progressed to the final.

The second saw Tim Radcliffe face Abdul Mohammed. Mohammed came into this one with a big reputation, but found himself outfought in almost every aspect. It was an astonishing performance from Radcliffe. He out-kicked and out-kicked him. When the fight went to the ground Radcliffe worked his guard so well that he was able to just kick him off, and in the third round when Mohammed went for a take down Radcliffe just pushed him away. With the fight going the three round distance, it came as no surprise that the judges gave Radcliffe the unanimous decision. An awesome performance from Radcliffe here.

Then it was on to the welterweight semi-finals, beginning with Eugene Fadiora going up against Nathan Champ. In this battle of youth against age, youth firmly came out on top. From the opening bell of the first round to the final bell of the third, it was all Fadiora. He controlled everything, using his vastly superior kick boxing skills to out fight Champ out every point. By the end of the second round Champ’s face was a bloody mess, with a nasty cut having opened under his right eye. The cut opened up again in the third, and it was only in the final minute or so of the final round that Champ finally sprang to life, getting off a few good shots. The judges decision - unanimous in favour of Fadiora. An excellent performance from Eugene here, but in the end the sixteen year age difference just proved too much for Champ.

Next up was Edgelson Lua taking on Ch’e Mills. This was the kind of fight that makes it great to be an MMA fan, a back and forth encounter with reversal after reversal, smooth transitions, and tremendous ground fighting. While Mills clearly took the first round, Lua worked his way back well in the second, on top for most of the round and out moving Mills whenever he could, only for Mills to come back strongly on the offence himself. By the time the third round started both fighters looked exhausted, and it came as no surprise that they fought at a slightly slower pace, but as the round went on Mills got the upper hand, taking Lua down with a jumping knee and unleashing with the ground and pound. As the fight went into it’s final ten seconds all Lua could do was hang on, and it looked like the referee was going to step in and stop things right up until the final bell. So after three hard fought rounds, the unanimous decision went in favour of Mills, and rightfully so. A tremendous performance.

The final two fights were the middleweight semi-finals, beginning with John Phillips going up against Denniston Sutherland. An interesting fight between two evenly matched opponents had an unfortunate ending. Technically sound early on, when Sutherland took Phillips down with a judo throw, Phillips went limp. Sutherland went in for the kill with the ground and pound, Phillips was unable to respond, and soon tapped out, revealing that he’d injured his shoulder. Needless to say that Phillips was disappointed, but in all it was a good performance from Sutherland.

The second semi-final saw John Maguire facing the Tom “Kong” Watson, a fight Maguire had been looking for for two years. A definite example of a good striker against a good ground fighter. Early on Watson looked great, rolling off the combinations and scoring with a couple of head kicks. Maguire, on the other hand, showed excellent control on the ground, seemingly able to take Watson down at will. But by the time the third round started, Maguire looked exhausted, and Watson began to take control with some excellent striking. Whenever he knocked Maguire down, he refused to follow his man down to the mat, not wanting to go back into his territory. So each time the referee stood Maguire up, Watson would just knock him down again, until it got to the point where Maguire could take no more, and the referee stepped in, giving Watson the TKO win in a tremendous fight for both men.

In conclusion - with Cage Rage having bitten the dust, it’s successor Ultimate Challenge UK losing it’s television slot when Nuts TV went off the air, and Cage Gladiators having disappeared from ITV4 schedules, BAMMA’s debut on Bravo saw a welcome return to British television for British mixed martial arts with a great show. Of the six fights featured, everyone delivered, making this a thrilling debut show. The match-making of former Cage Rage supremo Dave O’Donnell must be highly commended here.

Production-wise, it just can’t be faulted. Great production standards coupled with good presenting and excellent commentary from other former Cage Rage alumni added to the show, but I must make mention of Christian O’Connell’s efforts here. All I knew about the guy before hand was that he was a radio disc jockey for Absolute Radio here in Britain, and that he’d appeared on a few television panel shows as well. But his presenting, commentating and interview style fit in perfectly with this show. He came across as extremely knowledgeable about all things MMA, and in effect, he became BAMMA’s answer to Joe Rogan. I really hope that they hang on to this guy, because he definitely adds to the show.

So in all, this was an excellent advertisement for British mixed martial arts, and I’m really looking forward to seeing their next show in August, when the light heavies and heavyweights will get their chance. Well done all round.

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